City advertises for open space manager

The city has started looking for the ideal open space manager to monitor the city’s undeveloped land.

At its September meeting, the Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to use the Open Space Fund Account funded by builders and developers to hire a manager to help preserve and maintain Milford’s 2,500 acres of open space.

Mayor Ben Blake said he has directed that a selection committee be formed, made up of representatives from the Open Space Committee, Conservation Commission and Milford public schools. The committee will look for applicants with the ability to assess Milford’s open space inventory and develop plans for the acquisition, maintenance and preservation of the city’s resources.

The committee will evaluate applicants, and refer the strongest to the mayor.

In addition to the city’s website, the position will be advertised on the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities website, and possibly on various environmental organizations’ websites.

The deadline to submit an application is Oct. 15.

Local environmentalists came out strongly in support of the new city position.

“As concerned citizens of Milford, we strongly support the proposal for the city to hire an open space agent, who will create and execute a plan to fully restore Milford’s passive open spaces, such as Eisenhower Park and Mondo Ponds,” William Poutray, conservation commissioner, and Letitia Malone, open space advisor, said in a recent letter to the newspaper.

Malone and Poutray said the individual will develop an overall prioritized plan to restore woodlands, wetlands, trails and wildlife habitats in an environmentally sound and sustainable manner.

“More importantly,” they added, “the agent will locate and coordinate available resources to accomplish the plan, seeking free assistance from the State of Connecticut Foresters, Yale and UConn’s forestry programs, the Southwest Conservation District, students, scouts, civic groups, and open space neighbors. The individual would also apply for grants.”

Advocates for creating the job have argued that open spaces in Eisenhower Park, the Solomon Property and other city-owned parcels have deteriorated due to erosion, invasive plants, vandalism, ATV abuse and regular use. They believe having an open space manager will help prevent some of the abuse.

The Planning and Zoning Board agreed at its Aug. 21 meeting to a proposal to spend $45,000 from its Open Space Funds account “for the purpose of retaining the service of an open space and natural resource agent to maintain, preserve, and monitor usage of the city’s open space.” The fund currently has $238,000.

Blake said this is intended as a one-time use of the open space funds, as he hopes the position would become self-supporting. The intent is for the open space agent to apply for grant funds that would continue to pay for the position.

The mayor said the details of the position are being worked out, including how many hours the person would work in a week. He said the person would be an “at will” employee and would not receive any benefits, only the salary.

Resident Wally Hauck, who speaks out occasionally on political issues, said in a letter to the newspaper this week that he doesn’t agree with spending money on a new position in the current economy.

“A good leader would have had the skill to rally his staff to do the right thing, prioritize their actions, and insist they cooperate to solve problems without spending money,” Hauck said.

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